The Other Me amounts to little more than an empty spectacle banking on David Lynch’s name.
Let’s get it out of the way: the most interesting thing about Giga Agladze’s The Other Me is its credited executive producer. David Lynch’s name is all over the film’s press materials and appears second in the film’s opening credit, even appearing to linger on screen for longer than any other name. Most of Lynch’s producing work is limited to collaborators or close relations (see: upcoming works by Twin Peaks editor Duwayne Dunham and Lynch’s daughter Jennifer), and some light digging reveals that Agladze is CEO of the Georgian branch of the David Lynch Foundation, the filmmaker’s Transcendental Meditation charity. Lynch also serves as a stylistic north star, informing both the film’s surreal sequences and its performance style, but like so much obviously Lynch-inspired work, it lacks nearly everything that makes his films work. If his involvement remains the most interesting element of The Other Me, it’s because there simply isn’t much else here.
The plot concerns a man (Jim Sturgess) beset by gradual vision loss and a marriage on the rocks who meets a mysterious woman (Andreja Pejic) in the woods, beginning a romantic entanglement that seems meant to be read as transcendent when it’s really just vague. As the man’s life comes further apart and his condition worsens, triggering flashbacks to a childhood of bullying and abuse, the woman becomes something of a constant for him, a comfort he can return to. Characters speak in odd phrases — the woman insists that she remain nameless — and in a stilted style that can only generously be compared to Lynch. But whereas Lynch’s own affectations are built on a tradition of melodrama and specific characterization, Agladze can only approximate his single point of reference. Like the nameless woman in the woods, characters and their relationships to one another are always thinly sketched so that any possibility of finding deeper meaning proves a challenge. Even when the film takes a harder turn toward the surreal, with the protagonist’s now total blindness imagined as seeing another world entirely, parsing exactly what Agladze might intend means sifting through hokey transcendentalist exclamations hoping to latch onto everything, a task that the dramatically inert trifle doesn’t merit undertaking.
The Other Me does finally clarify itself at its ending, revealing the film as a reflection on gender and identity, one that connects self-reflection and change to a spiritual otherworldliness. This final moment of revelation fascinates at first, as if maybe the slog here was worth it, but further examination shows that it too is obtuse pretension that only really unifies plot elements while imbuing them with shallow, trite psychological meaning. The previously mysterious childhood flashbacks suffer most now that they’re saddled to a narrative in which they’re obvious, sterile and stereotypical. It’s an ending intended to be an “aha!” moment to an ostensibly beguiling mystery but is instead an explanation tacked onto a deeply uncompelling film.